Summer is here, and while that means clear sunny skies for most of us, some drivers will see quite a different weather report. Summer is also the season of hurricanes, monsoons, and torrential downpours, so be prepared with these quick driving tips.
Sure rain isn’t ice, but you still should slow down a bit. During a prolonged dry spell, roads and highways develop a sheen of oil from vehicles that are not well maintained. When the dry spell breaks with a downpour, the rain makes the roads slippery as it cleans off the mess. You can sometimes see this effect as a pedestrian, when there is an oily rainbow effect in the street puddles. It’s slick, drive slower.
Keep Your Distance
Similar to slowing down, keeping your distance from other drivers should help you avoid accidents. It’s most likely overcast, which hampers visibility. During a heavy rainstorm the wipers may be at maximum speed and still barely keeping up. In periods of reduced visibility, keep more distance. Never out drive your visibility.
Watch for Sprayers
Faster moving large vehicles can blast you with a constant stream of water. A big rig passing you on the highway in a downpour will leave you wondering why they turned a fire hose on your windshield. Best bet is to get off the accelerator and coast out of the spray area.
Turn on your headlights for maximum visibility during rain. This helps other drivers see you from a distance and allows you to see slightly more clearly through the rain. Plus, in most states, it’s the law.
Most passenger tires are designed to be able to handle some water on the roadway, if they are at the recommended inflation level. It’s a good idea to check your tires’ pressure regularly anyway. In addition to the usual benefits of higher gas mileage and reduced tire wear, you will also prevent hydroplaning.
A fresh set of windshield wipers will clear off just about any amount of water Mother Nature can throw at you. If yours are old enough to have seen this last winter, they are too old and most likely damaged. This will cause streaking or insufficient clearing of your windshield. A new set is affordable, easy to install, and provides amazing clarity.
It’s a Car, Not a Boat
If you see any flooded streets, do not attempt to cross. Even if you think it’s not that deep, keep in mind that you have no way of knowing if it’s four inches of water or four feet. The perspective a driver has from their vehicle offers you no chance to measure the depth of murky water. According to the National Weather Service, floods kill more people than all other weather-related hazards. In the case of drownings, more than half occur when someone drives into a flooded area. In other words, go around.
Last, consider waiting out the rain, if you can. Pull over into a parking lot and sit with your lights on until the rain eases up. This will take you longer to get to your destination, but it is a whole lot safer than driving in heavy rain.